Reviews

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Finished Malone Dies by Samuel Beckett and read The Sister’s Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. Reread The Wavering Knife and Fugue State by Brian Evenson and parts of Divorcer by Gary Lutz. Watched 12 Years a Slave and rewatched Skyfall. Listened to Carey’s Cold Spring by Frog Eyes and Julia With Blue Jeans On by Moonface.

Small reviews of some of these after the jump.

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Reviews

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Read Steve Almond’s The Notorious B.B. Chow, David Markson’s The Last Novel, and started Beckett’s Malone Dies. Watched Room 237, The Bay, and rewatched The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Listened to Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, Bill Callahan’s Dream River, and Lubomyr Melnyk’s The Voice of Trees.

Short reviews of most of those after the jump.

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Reviews

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I thought I’d expand my Reading posts to include reviews of other things (movies, music, etc).

-Saw I’m So Excited. While the movie felt like a retreading of earlier Almodóvar films, it was still immensely fun to watch. It has the melodramatic sensibilities of Live Flesh and the near slapstick of Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, but never achieves the emotional depth of Talk to Her or Volver. This is a case where a filmmaker’s prior efforts can work against them — had Almodóvar made this film earlier in his career,  it probably would have been better received. But still, very enjoyable and fun.

More about Pacific Rim, J.M. Ledgard’s Submergence, Laird Hunt’s Ray of the Star, and Max Richter’s Memoryhouse after the jump.

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Reading

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Finished Marcel Benabou’s Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books. Read My Life In Heavy Metal by Steve Almond. Began Room by Emma Donoghue and Moby Dick by, you know, Herman Melville.

Didn’t get much from Benabou’s book. There were many sections that were conceptually interesting, but the overblow, baroque style jarred with me.

Take this sentence: “Thus, I drafted without too much trouble, and sometimes even with intense jubilation, a great quantity of first pages: were someone to take an interest in them one day, that person would create an anthology that might not be lacking savor.” It could be rewritten as “I wrote many first pages, some of which had merit,” without shifting the meaning too much. It could be that Benabou is trying to parody ornate prose, but I’m not sure that’s what he was going for.

Another possibility (and this is possible for most Oulipan work) is that the piece operates under a constraint I don’t understand. However, many of the constraints and generative techniques in Perec’s Life A User’s Manual are not readily apparent, but served the novel well. For example, his lists of items provide characterization as well as introducing dramatic weight into the story — these are characters whose stories are told partly through the accumulation of objects.

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On Publishing

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my motivations behind trying to publish, and I’ve got 3 theories worked out. They’re sorted from least to most probable. It is descriptive of my own reasoning and not intended to be prescriptive.

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The first way is the most complicated, and also the most problematic. We’re going to assume that a piece of fiction is an experiment. I should clarify that by an experiment, I don’t mean what is commonly referred to as “experimental fiction” — I simply mean that we should consider the story like we would a scientific experiment.  We can then assume that the piece will achieve varying degrees of success or failure. While one could argue that the author should be the judge of the story’s success, it makes more sense that a reader should judge this, the reader being more objective and less personally involved with the piece. So, in this situation, the writer sets the conditions of the experiment, performs it, and the reader determines its success. The writer requires a reader for the piece to be evaluated as successful.

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Reading

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Read Kate Zambreno’s Heroines, Jane Bowles’s Two Serious Ladies, Jac Jemc’s My Only Wife, and Michael Kimball’s Big Ray. Started Blake Butler’s Sky Saw, Raymond Queneau’s The Flight of Icarus and finished Daniel Levin-Becker’s Many Subtle Channels.

Zambreno’s Heroines is, on the surface, difficult to categorize. It’s a book length work of both literary criticism and memoir. However, the form works and seems very natural — it fosters my belief that fragmentation is often more natural than adherence to traditional form. Heroines is unashamedly subjective, justifiably angry, and very readable. Sometimes when reading a book I think that it’s something we are going to have to come to grips with as a culture, and this is one of those books. Zambreno has identified an unacknowledged problem — how the literary cannon, psychiatry, and the culture as a whole has sold these women short, and how we continue to dismiss creative young women.

I read Big Ray in one evening. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read a book in a single sitting.

I’ve got some thoughts on Diane Cook’s story Flotsam, appearing in Redivider 10.1, after the jump.

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